Three Enemies of Quality Sleep
And three ways you can help improve your sleep, TONIGHT!
If you love your sleep, but find you're still waking up feeling groggy and wishing you could hit the snooze button just one.more.time. you are not alone!
More than one third of American adults say they are not getting enough sleep, according to a recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Report.
And 50 to 70 million Americans are experiencing sleep-related problems, across all ages and socioeconomic sectors.
Enemy Number 1
Alcohol. Yes, it's classified as a depressant, which typically slows down our brain function and reaction time. But because the body metabolizes (breaks down) alcohol into sugar, it can wreak havoc on your metabolism and blood sugar levels while you try to sleep. This will result in much less restful sleep and can cause night waking as your liver enzymes break down the alcohol. One study found that people who consume moderate to high amounts of alcohol had a nearly 40% reduction in sleep quality, and that number increased over time with regular consumption.
How to improve your sleep: Now, I'm no teetotaler, but if you are waking up feeling groggy and also consuming alcohol regularly, you may want to experiment with having less, or none at all for a few nights and see if things improve! If you're out and you want to enjoy a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail, try to also have some food with it, particularly plant fiber, and some healthy fats. This will help to stabilize blood sugars and slow processing. Alternate each drink with water, and stop drinking at least 2 hours before you plan to go to bed. All these should help to reduce the detrimental effect on your sleep quality!
Enemy Number 2
Screens. What, am I just coming for ALL the fun? Yes and no. Blue light emitted by phones, televisions, and computer monitors has a similar effect on the brain that natural sunlight has. It tells our brains that it's time to be awake, and sends all sorts of physiological signals to stay alert and ready.
Recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation state that you have AT LEAST 30 minutes and ideally 1-2 hours screen free before heading to bed. Now, this may seem impossible due to your work schedule, or the fact that you only get to watch the shows you like or get the latest social media updates once everyone else is in bed. Lucky for us, you can pick up blue light glasses to help block some of this wavelength of light.
How to improve your sleep: Try to use blue light glasses if you will be looking at screens and it's less than one hour until bed time.
Watch your shows and do your scrolling BEFORE beginning your full bed time routine. This simple change can give you up to 30 minutes of screen free time before your head hits the pillow between changing, brushing teeth, washing your face and getting out clothes for the next day. Add in some gentle stretches to "lengthen" the amount of time that you're putting between your screens and sleep. This could be an ideal time to add in a short meditation practice if you are still looking for a few more minutes. Bonus - meditation before bed has been shown to even further improve sleep quality!
Enemy Number 3
Ambient light and sounds. Let's just *say* that you're still not turning off your Netflix before you fall asleep. Or maybe your neighbors have a super bright light in their back yard or you live in a city where there is always some light and noise somewhere... The light and sound in the room can keep your body from fully getting into REM sleep, the most restorative phase of sleep. The additional noise keeps our brains unconsciously tuned into the outside environment instead of disconnecting to do its primary job of detoxification and memory keeping.
How to get better sleep: Set a sleep timer on the TV. Try setting it as soon as you start watching, so you don't forget once you're drowsy. If it's ambient light that you can't control, the simplest way to block it is to use an eye mask. If you are feeling even more ambitious, light blocking curtains, window film, and blinds can help reduce the light even further.
A white noise machine can assist the brain in filtering out any other ambient noise. Ear plugs are another option, if you have something very loud and distracting going on around you. Headphones can also offer some relief.
Whichever ways you choose to improve your sleep, know that any additional time you five yourself to sleep is beneficial! It's the time that our brains can naturally detoxify. Sleeping provides our brains the time to commit short term memories and recent experiences into long term memory. And the most obvious is that with adequate quality sleep, you will feel more energetic and able to take on your day!
Share this with someone you know who needs better quality sleep!